20/01/17 #MadLivesMatter The 4 A’s 

Awareness

Action

Accountability 

Atttudes

The world of the mental health campaigner can be challenging, confusing and riddled with pitfalls.

I think, for too long, I’ve been sharing up to date articles and reports to all in sundry with the mistaken belief that by raising awareness I’d been taking action to change things…

However…I’m not convinced. 

Raising awareness without the other 3 is not unlike some kind of collective bystander apathy – surely if I raise awareness of this heinous thing/ action/ inaction then somebody somewhere must do something??

I don’t think that’s happening – so, please let me know what you think of my brand new, just out of the box, 4 A’s approach to mental health campaigning.


Awareness
– this is the cornerstone of what we’re doing. Without knowledge of what’s going on for folk with mental health problems, people aren’t going to begin to engage with the conversation. Awareness raising on it’s own is limited though. People will flick through, possibly with a tut, or a, ‘Isn’t that terrible?’ under their breaths, before landing on the next thing.


Action
– You could argue that raising awareness IS taking action. And you’d be right.

But is it enough?

What Action are YOU taking to change things? What Action CAN you take… I know, for me with my mental malady, that varies from day to day – hour by hour at times. 

Action could be as simple as having a conversation with someone – a friend, a relative, a work colleague, your postman…

More ostentatiously, you could develop a talk, a presentation, a workshop…

You could join forces with your fellow campaigners…you could organise an event…

You could have a chat with folk who might not necessarily agree with you…

#MadFest ??

You could walk around the edge of the UK…


Accountability
– take ownership of what you’re saying. Unless the people you claim to be speaking on behalf of are truly without a voice – don’t speak on their behalf – speak for yourself, and own it. 


Attitudes
– surely the goal of any mental health campaigner is to change negative attitudes against them and their people. 
You’re not going to achieve that by telling people to shut up. 

I believe that policing language that has been labelled as stigmatising or prejudiced is a red herring. 

Although language is easy to see – and easy to measure – it doesn’t necessarily give us any idea of underlying attitudes. 

Let’s take the example of the Metropolitan Police. I’m sure we’re agreed that their language when dealing with people from minority ethnic groups is exemplary – politically correct to the extreme.

And yet…

If you are a black person living in our capital, you are 5 times more likely to be stopped and searched….

AND…

If you’re found in possession of drugs, you are 4 times more likely to be arrested. 
And all the time, the language used is wonderfully PC. 

Changing attitudes calls for engagement – conversation – openness and a strong desire not to take offence. 

I’ve walked over 4 thousand miles around a chunk of the UK coastline with no money and Borderline Personality Disorder and people have been nothing but fabulous. 

I know. 

And that’s the 4 A’s. 

It really is that simple. 

Awareness

Action

Accountability 

Attitudes

Walk a Mile

Chris

Posted in economy, government, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, walking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

17/01/17 #MadLivesMatter

Join us over the next few months as we talk about how 

#MadLivesMatter

You’ll hear why we think the wholesale slaughter of people with mental health problems in the UK is way past being unacceptable. 

#MadLivesMatter

That over 6 thousand people take their own lives every year in the U.K., 75% of whom are men – making it the biggest killer of men under 45 in the U.K. 

#MadLivesMatter

Research suggests that under reporting of suicide – possibly due to the stigma attached – by between 30% and 50%, means that figure could be closer to 9000 a year. 

#MadLivesMatter

That people with mental health problems are, on average, dying 20 years earlier than the general population from PREVENTABLE PHYSICAL DISEASES. 

#MadLivesMatter

That the very medication that many of us are taking can lead to massive weight gain, type II diabetes, heart disease and cognitive dysfunction to name but a few. 

#MadLivesMatter

That one in four of us will at some time experience a mental health problem. That’s over 15 million people in the U.K. 

#MadLivesMatter

That 9 out of 10 of the people who have a mental health problem will experience some manner of stigma because of that.

#MadLivesMatter

That Welfare Benefits have been cut in real terms – whether it be through the bedroom tax, cuts to Employment and Support Allowance, or the swingeing sanctioning system where people with mental health problems are hugely over represented.

#MadLivesMatter

That there have been massive cuts to both community and hospital services for people with mental health problems.

#MadLivesMatter

That roughly 75% of our prison population have diagnosable mental health problems.

#MadLivesMatter

That people with mental health problems are hugely over represented in our homeless and rough sleeper population.

#MadLivesMatter

That 13.5% of people with any mental illness are in employment when between 80-90% want to work.

#MadLivesMatter

Medical students who choose psychiatry have been referred to as ‘Pest Controllers’ by their peers.

#MadLivesMatter

We, as a country, have broken every single law in the Human Rights Act regarding our people with mental health problems. 

Every single one. 

#MadLivesMatter

It’s all right for you – you can use the word ‘Mad’ because you’ve been diagnosed with…

We can all use whatever language we want. If ‘Mad’ is all you have then I’m all ears. For me, it’s attitudes that count.

You can’t say the wrong thing. 

#MadLivesMatter

Mental ill health isn’t my problem or your problem – it’s everyone’s problem. We are all responsible for our mental health and that of our fellow citizens.

#MadLivesMatter

Those in positions of power are currently making a complete arse of things. 
It’s up to us – yes, you and me – to get them, help them, to change. 

Starting now.

Be part of the conversation.

Use the hashtag

#MadLivesMatter

Walk a Mile

Chris

Posted in inequality, kindness, mental health, Uncategorized, walking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

10/10/16 We’re a SCIO!!!!


Sorry, you’re a WHAT now? SCIO – isn’t that a yogurt? 

We’re a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation – take a look at what that is here

I think I liked the yogurt better…
After months of hard work, we’re now registered with OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator – take a look here

Walk a Mile in My Shoes is currently made up of 8 trustees with a great breadth and depth of knowledge of mental health and all things charity, and me.

For the uninitiated, walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile, WAM is a community, a social movement, of like minded folk, gathered together with the primary aim to break down mental health stigma. 

It started with my walk around the edge of the UK – symbolic because that’s where people with mental health problems often find themselves – on the periphery of the mainstream…

I was motivated in my endeavour after reading ‘No destination’ by Satish Kumar, a Jain monk who went on a peace march in the ’60’s – with no money, to ensure he had the motivation to engage with folk at the end of each day, rather than putting his feet up in a variety of deluxe hotels around the world, congratulating himself on dodging the great unwashed. 

I thought if this wonderful man could walk from India into Pakistan while the two countries were at war, expecting and receiving hospitality as he went, surely I could enjoy the same reception as I walked around our lovely island.

It has been a wonderful, life affirming, experience. People – as expected – have been fabulous. 

Imagine telling folk that you’ve got a mental health problem and no money and their first reaction is to offer you hospitality. 

That’s walk a mile. 

In 2015 we started work with fine people at SeeMe Scotland with the goal of somehow distilling the success of the coastal walk in a series of events. 

Over 1300 people from different walks of life – people with a lived experience of mental ill health, carers, friends, mental health professionals and any interested parties – have gathered together over the year, walking in pairs – 

Challenging Mental Health Stigma, One Conversation at a Time

-as they literally walked a mile in each other’s shoes. 

We’ve had 15 events around Scotland so far – take a look here to get a flavour of the ongoing success of this rather lovely campaign.

Our next event is in Lanark on Saturday 15th of October- you can sign up to be part of that here

If you can’t make it Lanark, you can arrange your own event – you can be part of our ever growing campaign and we’ll support you through every step of the process. 

Take a look here for details 

We provide tailor made training too, to ensure that everyone gets the most out of walking a mile in each other’s shoes. 

The Walk a Mile in My Shoes film, by Scottish BAFTA award winning Johanna Wagner, will be premiered at the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (SMHAFF) at the Glad Cafe in Glasgow on Monday the 17th of October.

The film charts my journey around the coast and explores the impact of my mental health problems on this rather lovely endeavour.

This is the 10th anniversary of SMHAFF, you can book your free tickets for our film here

So, when someone asks you ‘Just what is Walk a Mile in My Shoes you can tell them…

It’s a coastal walk, it’s a series of events around the country, it’s bespoke training and it’s a film. 

All in the name of Challenging Mental Health Stigma. One Conversation at a Time. 

And now we’re a registered Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation, with the benefit of an infrastructure, a team of knowledgeable, experienced and passionate folk who will enable us to take our campaign even further. 

So join up, sign up, arrange a walk, talk with us, walk with us…

Like our new (ish) Facebook page here

You can follow us (along with nearly 20 thousand others) on Twitter @walkamileuk

Walk a mile in my shoes 

Chris

Posted in economy, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, Uncategorized, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

11/09/16 Prejudice

 

prejudice

ˈprɛdʒʊdɪs/

noun

1. 

preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

“English prejudice against foreigners”

synonyms: preconceived idea, preconception, preconceived notion; prejudgement

“male prejudices about women”

Well that appears to be an entirely unpleasant thing, doesn’t it? 

Prejudice against…I was going to start a list there, but I think it’s important to keep this blog to a little under 5 million words…

The word itself seems to be split into 2 components – pre and judge.

We seem to be somehow hard wired to create some manner of perception about a person when presented with a vacuum of knowledge. 

If we meet someone from a group, area, philosophy…you get the idea, that we don’t understand, or have no prior personal knowledge of, we’ll fill that gap in knowledge with…

Well, we’ll often fill it with a pile of old bollocks – usually hoovered up on our way through life from the media, social and otherwise, friends, family and anyone else who knows me…er, sorry, knows you…

Does that have to be a bad thing? Do we have to do lengthy research on each and every person we ever meet before finally, some 23 years later, we can give them out stamp of approval?

Just recently, I got in touch with Donna, a friend who I’ve known for maybe a little over a year, to invite myself to stay at her house so I could get along to the latest Walkamile event in Strathaven.

Imagine my happy surprise that after welcoming me into her home that she shares with her delightful husband Alan, and 2 little people, she proceeded to tell everyone we met that she was putting me up for the night, and that she had only met me 4 times. 

Hmmm…when you put it like that..

And yet…before I knew it, I was whisked away to a fundraising ball for Chris’s House with some of her close friends, enjoying great conversation and hospitality at a most splendid hoolie.

A night that finished with setting the world to rights whilst drinking her dad’s very fine home made beer. 

The hospitality continued the following morning with square sausage & tattie scone rolls and more of that friendly chatty stuff. 

A hug, and I was off on my way to our let’s walk a mile event in Strathaven, being supported by the lovely Rachel…who I’ve known for about a year and Kathleen, who I’d met once.

I approach these wonderful events – yesterday’s ramble in Strathaven was our 13th – with a number of closely held prejudices.

The first being, the weather is going to be lovely. At the vey worst it won’t rain…and no, that foggy drizzle we had in Inverness all those months ago does not count as precipitation. 

My second prejudice, and, for my sins, I’m finding this a bugger to shift, is that people are fabulous. 

Crazy, I know. But let’s look at the increasingly growing body of evidence to support my pre judgements.

I’ve walked around the coast of Scotland – with no money – telling anyone who is willing to listen about my mental health problem – receiving nothing but hospitality, friendship and wonderful stories in return. 

We’ve had 13 events in and around Scotland, where strangers – STRANGERS – from different walks (see what I did there?) of life, have walked a mile in each other’s shoes and felt better for the experience.

I now find myself at the pre walk talk, inciting prejudice amongst the gathered hordes – but prejudice, this time, as a force for all that is good and rather lovely. 

I ask people to pre judge the person, the stranger they have yet to find, but with whom they are about to walk a mile. 

‘Imagine that this person is going to be one of the loveliest folk you’ve ever met – and you won’t be disappointed… ‘

Is, more or less, what I tell the walkamilers. 

And it’s working.

But why have prejudice at all? 

Why can’t we assess each and every person we meet on their own merits and formulate our opinion of them over time?

Well, dear reader, it’s my assertion that we’re hard wired to pre judge – love it or hate it, it’s a human superpower we all seem to have.

Yes, even you, the Dalai Lama…look, I don’t criticise your blogs, so why don’t you just…

Prejudice has a self fulfilling prophecy component that comes free with it. 

You meet someone. You have a negative prejudice about their group/ their philosophy/ order/ race/ religion/ party/ team/ class/ country/ eye colour…and so on. 

If you do engage with them at all, you’ll be waiting…poised for them to say or do something that confirms your prejudice. 

You’ll be waiting for them to slip up so that little part of your mind will light up and scream, 

‘See – I told you they were…’ add your own insult here…

Imagine then, going into that same meeting, interaction, whatever…but this time you believe this person is going to be fabulous…

Well, for a start, you’re more likely to have that conversation. 

Secondly, and most importantly, you won’t be set to trigger that internal booby-trap that declares they’re a….(see above) 

When they say or do something you don’t entirely agree with, you’ll be more inclined to think, ‘Maybe that’s out of character for them…’

Or maybe even, ‘I don’t agree with what they say/ do – but just because they’re different from me doesn’t make them a…(see above)’ 

After all, you’ve already decided they’re fabulous. 

And that, my friends, is the Walkamile way. It’ll find you in all kinds of fabulous situations – perhaps even blagging a sleepover at someone’s house..

I’m so sorry, Donna, I can’t believe we’ve only met 4 times…I don’t normally try to blag hospitality without at least meeting folk at least, er…once…

I refer you to ‘The Ferguson Effect’

Walk a mile

Chris

Posted in economy, government, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, Uncategorized, walking | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

21/08/16 Walk a Mile in My Shoes – it starts with YOU


Talking to Alison Meiklejohn, a non-executive member of the Lothian NHS Board at the letswalkamile event at the Royal Edinburgh (psychiatric) Hospital’s Fete at the weekend, I realised that even with all my experience in all things mental, I’m still prone to making assumptions. 

In amongst our chats about how up to 75% of folk we lock up in prisons have a diagnosed mental health problem; how parity in the funding of mental health services with physical health services still seems a distant dream & other stuff, I’d assumed that attitudes towards mental maladies in the higher echelons would be dazzlingly positive. 

And that, in such a positive climate, access to gold plaited, top quality mental health support would be an unquestioned given. 

Cutting to the chase, and keeping with the climate metaphor, the forecast is, at best, dreich. 

I appreciate this comes from one person’s perspective at a particular time on a given day, but there doesn’t appear to be a culture of openness and honesty with staff in the (psychiatric) hospital – where there appears to be a mass reluctance to declare personal experience of work stress/ anxiety or other mental maladies.

This is combined with, let’s call them lack lustre (my words) mental health services for staff struggling to cope, with long waiting lists and counselling limited to 6 weeks for those who have the courage to cry out for help. 

I’d expected tales of something deluxe – a Gold Standard for others to follow…instead…well, instead it sounds like more of the same…

I’d smiled, ‘You’d hope to get some perks…’ but that doesn’t appear to be the case. 

This is so desperately short sighted – indulge me – type ‘ROI (that’s Return of investment) Mental Health’ in any search engine & take a look at any of the bazillion (or so) studies that show just how many bangs for your buck you get when you invest in mental health care. 

Crazy though this is, it isn’t my biggest bugbear. I don’t think I was naive to believe – to expect – that these guys would be leading the way. 

Surely…?

If this is the organisation’s attitude to the mental health of it’s staff – what view must it have of the people it’s charged to care for? 

I can’t help but think (although I’m open to any alternative suggestions ANYONE might have) that this reflects an othering, us and them, perspective of mental ill health. 

This was, by no means, the attitude that came from Alison – her words and attitudes were thoughtful, inclusive, and non stigmatising. 

It was an pleasure to walk a mile with her. 

The atmosphere was great. 

People were happy and chatty – talking openly about mental health. We walked past the greenhouses, the Cyrenian’s gardens that cost next to nothing, but improved the quality of patient care for so many. 

We caught a glimpse at the new hospital to be, where the patients of the future will be shown respect through their environment, where Victorian multi-bedded dormitories will be a thing of the past…

But will those attitudes change? 

Will that nebulous, ethereal entity that is the organisation adapt with the buildings? 

Which brings me back to the start.

Walk a mile begins with you. If you see or hear something that stigmatises people with mental health problems and you do or say nothing, does that make you complicit with that….something? 

I’m not remotely interested in trying to guilt trip folk into action. 

God knows how difficult I found it to speak out from both within the system, where the wood is often indiscernible from the trees, and from the outside where that forest can seem impenetrable. 

People are fabulous – you’ve proven that time, and time, and time again. 


People – professionals and punters – are willing and able to walk a mile together to start to effect change. 

It won’t happen overnight – and, without overly labouring the point, it starts with you. 


Walk a mile 

Chris

Posted in economy, government, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, Uncategorized, walking | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

20/08/16 What if…?

I could have avoided eye contact with the er…brightly dressed, broad smiling, curly headed young (er than me) man who bounced in front of me at the motorway service station on the M6 on Thursday. 

I could have body swerved him, in a way that wouldn’t have been out of place at the Olympic rugby sevens, like my fellow motorway dwellers…

I could have told him a lengthy story about, although we were only going to be in Edinburgh for one night, we were carrying every item of clothing we’d ever owned – just in case, so there was no room at the inn…er, in the inn…the car…

However, I quickly remembered how hitching had been my primary mode of transport in my early 20’s and that I owed the world a little something…

I told the guy, Dennis, and his fellow traveller, Rosie, that I’d have to check with the lovely Ella who was wandering about the place, but as far as I was concerned, we’d be taking them as far as Gretna – they were travelling to a place near Dumfries. 

I caught up with Ella, and, as you can imagine, she looked at me as if I was insane…

‘Of course!’ she happily declared in a, ‘Did you really have to ask?’ kind of way? 

We bundled them in with ‘welcomes’ and ‘thank you’s’ in equal measure. 

A captive audience in a car full of performers! 

How happy was I? 

Dennis and Rosie were coming back to Scotland after travelling around Europe – the conversation started safely, gently….perhaps we were going to judge them? 

They’d been to Greece, Serbia and, finally, Calais…

Thoughts anyone? 

Why would these 2 fine folk take themselves from Scotland to Europe for almost a month? 

To help.  

To do their bit to support the thousands of people who are on the move, who’ve had their lives horribly disrupted by the fucking mess in Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Lybia, Iraq….

I didn’t even think to ask why. I can guess – you can probably guess – but their specific motivations will remain a bit of a mystery. 

They did what they could – they stayed in these transient, temporary camps – doing everything from serving food, building shelters, showing care and compassion, to sorting socks. 

They talked about difficult conditions – about ‘The Jungle’ in Calais – about how it has a high street – water – and shops – and about it’s imminent destruction. 
We told them about walk a mile – they called us ‘inspirational’

Inspirational?! After all they’d been up to – it was all rather lovely. 

What a great experience! What open, delightful, enthusiastic folk.

The hundred and fifty miles with them zipped by. 

All to soon, we were standing on the side of the road, dragging their rucksacks out, and hugging them like long lost friends, wishing them well for the rest of their journey. 

The rest of our Edinburgh road trip flew by as we babbled about what a great experience this simple act of saying, ‘Sure, we’ll give you a lift,’ had given us. 

What if….?

Walk a Mile

Chris

Posted in economy, government, mental health, Uncategorized, walking, war | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

06/08/16 Shit science and lazy reporting tells us that nearly everyone is a prejudicial bastard

Pitchforks? Check.

Torches? Check.

Hoards of angry villagers? Check.

Shall we begin? 

This week I read an article in the Independent that tells us that 

‘Majority of Britons ‘uncomfortable’ letting someone with mental illness look after their child, study finds’

Driving home the point they were making, just in case we’d missed it with

‘Research suggests deep-rooted stigma against people with mental health issues prevails in the U.K.’

Bastards! 90% of people are still stigmatising people with mental health problems after all we’ve done…

This is obviously yet another case of blind prejudice – why do we fucking bother…?
But let’s look a little closer at the study that generated these claims 

What were people actually being asked? 

People were asked to express their opinions on people with mental health problems based on these 2 paragraphs. 

Scenario 1 – Andy (schizophrenia symptoms):

‘Andy was doing pretty well until six months ago. But then things started to change. He thought that people around him were criticising him and talking behind his back. Andy heard voices even though no one else was around. These voices told him what to do and what to think. Andy couldn’t work any more, stopped joining in with family activities and started to spend most of the day in his room.’

And…

Scenario 2 – Stephen (depression symptoms):

‘Stephen has been feeling really down for about six months and his family have noticed that he hasn’t been himself. He doesn’t enjoy things the way he normally would. He wakes up early in the morning with a flat heavy feeling that stays with him all day long. He has to force himself to get through the day, and even the smallest things seem hard to do. He finds it hard to concentrate on anything and has no energy.’

Are these accurate descriptions of everyone who’s ever experienced mental health problems? 

In 2 paragraphs? 

What about the times when Stephen and/ or Andy asymptomatic? When they are both aware they have a long standing mental health problem – but they aren’t experiencing the symptoms at the moment.

The vast majority of people I know experience mental ill health in a cyclical way – for example, I’m not always lost in a world of dissociation where nothing appears to be real. 

Quite often I’m a rather switched on, empathetic kind of guy. 

At times though, I’m not. 

When folk were responding to this attitudes survey, where they thinking about the 1 in 4 of us who will experience a mental health problem? 

Were they thinking purely about Andy and/ or Stephen? 

Were they thinking about the seemingly endless stream of psychos and maniacs who feature in the myriad (usually) American cop shows?

Or the folk with mental maladies who harm themselves and/ or others who regularly bob up in the mainstream media? 

Perhaps they were thinking about those of us they see as vulnerable souls, who need large organisations to fight our corner, to speak on our behalf? 

Maybe they’re thinking about those benefit scroungers we’re still told so much about? 

They might even be thinking about the swathes of folk with mental health problems with whom they’d love to engage – but for some reason feel they can’t, because they don’t know the right language – perhaps they feel blocked by political correctness?

What about the millions of folk with mental health problems who have children? Do the folk who participated in this study think that they should have their children removed? Or should they receive support? Maybe a bit of both.

Perhaps they considered none of these things – instead imagining the 2 individuals they were presented with in those 2 paragraphs – confined by all the limitations of information that such a quandary presents. 

Perhaps they actually know someone with a mental malady? We do, after all, walk among you. 

There are over 15 million of us in the UK alone. 

This is little more than shonky science, treated as fact by lazy reporting. 
The headline, ‘People don’t want their children looked after by Stephen and Andy when they have limited information about their mental health problems’ isn’t quite so punchy though, is it? 

Do what I do. Get out there. Meet people. Talk to folk. 

Like me, you’ll soon come to realise people are fabulous.

Yes, I know mental health stigma, prejudice and discrimination exist – but that’s for another blog….

Walk a mile

Chris

Posted in economy, government, mental health, Uncategorized, walking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment